Introducing the HP EliteBook 8760w

Just over ten months ago, we had a chance to take a look at a very big, reasonably impressive mobile workstation: HP's EliteBook 8740w. It sported HP's DreamColor IPS screen at a glorious 1920x1200 resolution and had fairly beefy hardware under the hood, including the at-the-time fastest mobile workstation GPU, the NVIDIA Quadro 5000M. But since HP unveiled the dramatic redesign of their enterprise notebooks earlier this year, we've been anxiously anticipating the 8740w's refresh. Today we have it, specced to kill with a shiny new DreamColor IPS screen, Sandy Bridge quad-core processor, and an even faster NVIDIA Quadro GPU.

I'll go ahead and get this out of the way right now before we even get into the nitty gritty: the chassis on the 8760w is a massive improvement on the 8740w's schizophrenic aesthetic, but there's a cost that some of you aren't going to be willing to pay, and I'm not talking a monetary one. You may have noticed that all of HP's new business-class notebooks feature 16:9-aspect panels instead of the old standby 16:10, and the 8760w hasn't been spared. I personally don't have a huge problem with it, but it's hard to deny something's been lost here. Where consumer notebooks have potentially benefitted from the move to 16:9 (1280x800 to 1366x768 is basically a wash, while 17" notebooks got a boost from 1440x900 to 1600x900), the change from a 1920x1200 panel to a 1920x1080 panel is a loss; end of conversation.

With all that said, hopefully the move to Sandy Bridge and access to the new GF110-based Quadro will make the transition a little less painful.

HP EliteBook 8760w Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-2820QM
(4x2.3GHz, 32nm, 8MB L3, Turbo to 3.4GHz, 45W)
Chipset Intel QM67
Memory 4x4GB Samsung DDR3-1333 (Max 4x8GB)
Graphics NVIDIA Quadro 5010M 4GB GDDR5
(384 CUDA cores, 450MHz/900MHz/2.6GHz core/shader/memory clocks, 256-bit memory bus)
Display 17.3" LED Matte IPS 16:9 1920x1080
(LGD02FC Panel)
Hard Drive(s) Micron C300 256GB SATA 3Gbps SSD
Optical Drive HP BD-ROM/DVD+-RW Combo Drive
Networking Intel 82579LM Gigabit Ethernet
Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth v3.0
Audio IDT 92HD81B1X HD Audio
Stereo speakers
Mic and headphone jacks
Battery 8-Cell, 14.3V, 83Wh battery
Front Side SD/MMC Reader
Left Side Kensington lock
Exhaust vent
Ethernet
DisplayPort
eSATA/USB Combo port
2x USB 3.0
4-pin FireWire
ExpressCard/54
Right Side Headphone and mic jacks
USB 2.0 (charging)
USB 2.0
Smart Card Reader
Optical drive
VGA
Back Side Modem
Exhaust vent
AC adaptor
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 16.4" x 10.7" x 1.47" (WxDxH)
Weight 7.8 lbs
Extras Webcam
DreamColor IPS display
Flash reader (MMC, SD/Mini SD, MS/Duo/Pro/Pro Duo)
USB charging
Blu-ray
HP Performance Advisor
Backlit keyboard with 10-key
Warranty 3-year limited warranty
Pricing Starting at $1,899
Priced as configured: $6,497

Thus far we've only really seen the i7-2820QM in the Sandy Bridge review notebook we received way back when Sandy Bridge was first launched, so the EliteBook 8760w is at least going to be our first experience with it "in the field" so to speak. It's a pretty beefy CPU, too, with a 2.3GHz nominal clock speed that turbos up to 3.1GHz on all four cores or a very healthy 3.4GHz on just one. That actually puts it within spitting distance of desktop Sandy Bridge quads, and it's a testament to the power efficiency of Intel's architecture. HP has also seen fit to grant it access to four memory slots and our review unit is specced with 16GB of non-ECC DDR3-1333.

The NVIDIA Quadro 5010M is a much more incremental update to its predecessor than the GeForce GTX 485M was to the 480M, though I suspect NVIDIA opted to continue using GF1x0 for their top shelf mobile workstation GPU due to its superior HPC capabilities. With the move to GF110, the 5010M now benefits from 384 CUDA cores instead of the 320 found on the previous generation Quadro 5000M, as well as bumps in clock speed to 450MHz on the core, 900MHz on the shaders, and 2.6GHz on the GDDR5. Gamers will undoubtedly be disappointed at the low clocks across the board, but the 5010M isn't really for them. While GF1x4 is more friendly for high-end mobile gaming hardware, GF1x0 likely remains the better choice for workstation tasks.

Our review unit is also bolstered by Intel's QM67 chipset, allowing for RAID 0/1/5 support as the EliteBook 8760w can support two 2.5" drives natively and a third if the user chooses to swap out the optical drive for another drive bay. As befitting a workstation notebook of this caliber, there's also virtually every type of connectivity the end user could ask for: eSATA, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, FireWire, Bluetooth, and even ExpressCard/54 are all present.

If Only Your HP Pavilion Looked This Good
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  • damianrobertjones - Thursday, August 25, 2011 - link

    In the future could you actually make a point of informing users about the fan (A bit more info)? Does it stay on all the time? Does it switch off as this is one of the more important aspects.

    For instance I've had a chance to use the following new models: (Fitted SSD, clean install, tweaked)

    HP 5330m - core i3, fan off most of the time
    HP 6460b - core i5, fan always on and annoying
    HP 8460p - core i5, fan always on and annoying
    Dell Vostro v131, celeron, fan ALWAYS off!

    Also here are the extended battery options that you missed off:
    HP VH08XL
    HP ST09 - Extended life battery (Fits under the laptop)
    HP BB09 - Ultra extended life battery (Massive slice, fits under the laptop)

    The BB09 along with the standard battery on a 6460b will play full screen media non-stop for 14+ hours (Wireless off, lowest brightness, audio via headphones).

    Thanks
    Reply
  • nirolf - Thursday, August 25, 2011 - link

    +1, more info on the noise would be nice. Reply
  • B3an - Thursday, August 25, 2011 - link

    Same. More fan info please. Reply
  • wawawiwa - Thursday, August 25, 2011 - link

    In my experience, the fan starts spinning on high usage like rendering or hd editing. It spins sometimes in photoshop but for short periods while in illustrator it stays off all the time (cs5.5). It also spins up but on lower rpm when i'm using both external and laptop display and it stays on all the time. If I'm using "projector" only or the laptop display only, it stays off.

    Standard temperature (CPU) is around 45°C, the maximum I got it to go is up to 80°C but still the keyboard and the part around the power button never gets hot, just warm.

    It is a beast.
    Reply
  • heymrdj - Thursday, August 25, 2011 - link

    These are high end workstation systems. Like any user, one must make a tradeoff between power and cooling. You can't run dual 6990's without fan noise, be it a watercooling radiator setup or fans, you *have* to pay the price for power in fan noise and/or size. The only way to get fan noise lowered is to thicken the fan and thicken the unit itself. Using workstation systems myself fan noise is a non issue, I know it will be loud according to the chips I outfit it with. A high end I7 and an always on quadro GPU is going to be producing a good deal of heat even idling, no way around it, just as my 5.4L V8 in my Expedition costs more to idle in fuel and heat than the 2.3L I4 in my fiance's Ranger. Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Thursday, August 25, 2011 - link

    I'm aware of this. The entire new Elitebook and Probook range are thicker than nearly any laptop I've used in the last 5 years YET the fan is always on even after updating the bios which enabled the 'fan' option. That said same option no longer even does what we think it does.

    I'd expect the 8760w to have fans the size of a small room :) but it would be nice to know if it EVER switches off
    Reply
  • Barfo - Thursday, August 25, 2011 - link

    yes Reply
  • velis - Thursday, August 25, 2011 - link

    I too bought an 8740w just for the x1200 dreamcolor. Had it been 1080p I wouldn't have bothered. I sure hope this notebook lasts me until monitors finally start picking up resolution. This convergence to 1080p and nothing higher gives me the creeps. Thanks for pointing out that fact in this review.
    Oh what I wouldn't give for a nice 24" 2560x1600 standalone - which would be the exact monitor obtained from this same dreamcolor 17" glass (the 1200p one of course)...
    I saw that HP offers a dreamcolor standalone, but its resolution is a useless 1920 and the price is stupenduously prohibitive. Why can the upgrade on a notebook cost $500 ($600 now), but a standalone costs >$2500???
    Reply
  • Rick83 - Thursday, August 25, 2011 - link

    Well, mostly because the upgrade also includes the price of the base display (probably around 150-200$) and because you get much better back-lighting for desktop screens.
    Additionally, size does matter, there's a bunch more material costs, more/better control circuits, a power supply, a foot, and finally dream color is just a brand - so the panel is probably utterly dissimilar from that used in the desktop.

    Also, the desktop screen market is a much more competitive market, as you can plug any screen into any computer - with the laptop you're limited to the options your producer gives you.
    If you compare the dream color offering to NEC and eizo offerings, you will see that it is priced for a certain market.

    It would be interesting to see direct performance comparisons between high end IPS laptop panels and mid-end PVA/IPS desktop screens, to see just how good/bad these high-end laptop screens are, and whether they're worth the extra 600$, if you mostly use the machine at a desk, or if the same money buys a vastly superior dedicated screen.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, August 25, 2011 - link

    I have to be honest, I think the screen quality (at least subjectively) is at LEAST on par with my desktop HP ZR24w and LP2465, if not outright better. Reply

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